Road to Yellowstone

Goose?

Goose?

Tuesday, May 5

The weather is promising: mild temperatures, a cornflower blue sky adorned with wispy white clouds, a beautiful spring day. A good day for driving. By 10 am I’m rolling down my parent’s driveway, it’s a right turn from there to get to Yellowstone. The biggest journey starts with but a single step. Or turn.

The early miles fly by on smaller two lane highways. There’s no traffic to speak of on a weekday morning out in the country. Farmers are out plowing their fields in preparation for planting, and between fields the poplar trees are decked out with the bright green of new foliage.

Highway 73 meets up with I94, a road I’m going to become intimately familiar with since I’ll be on it from now into Montana.

Just across the Mississippi river at the Minnesota welcome center I stop for lunch, and spy a curious sign on the front door:

I look all around the rest area, but don’t spy the goose. Hopefully he didn’t meet an untimely end from handouts. A lady behind a counter inside the welcome center is giving information or directions to a man, otherwise the place is empty. It’s a nice looking place, and since I didn’t get a picture of the Minnesota sign on the interstate, might as well get a picture of this.

road-to-yellowstone1

The driving through MN is as easy as Wisconsin. Hills are infrequent and mild, and I can set Bertha’s cruise control and relax. As always Bertha is handling the trailer well, and without Julie’s stuff the rear of the truck isn’t riding as low – but it still isn’t quite level. I’ll need to continue moving my belongings around inside the truck and trailer until I get it all balanced again.

Almost level

Almost level

Before long Sauk Centre is looming ahead. It’s where I planned to spend tonight, my allotted 297 miles are up. I pull into a rest stop just before town and look at my smartphone. It’s only 3:30, Minneapolis didn’t have much traffic and I made better time than expected. I also check my weather app. Nice today, rain tomorrow. I check the weather up in North Dakota: nice today, rain tomorrow. The wind has picked up during the afternoon, but it’s coming out of the SE and I’m heading NW, so it’s working in my favor.

That settles in then, as long as the weather is good I might as well make more time today since I’m not feeling tired. If the rain is heavy tomorrow, I won’t be making as good of time and will the tired of driving sooner.

At 6:30 pm, I pull into a Walmart in Fargo, ND, on the eastern most edge of the state. While I’m moving stuff around, a lady leans out of her truck window to admire Bertha and Cas, I wave at her while I unhook Cas’ electrical plug.

“I was just admiring your rig, that’s the setup I would like to have.” She says.

She also has a Dodge Dakota with a camper top on it, but it’s not as large as mine. Her trailer, currently at home, is a 1980’s something-or-other that she fixed up herself, I don’t catch the brand. “I’ve heard good things about those little fiberglass trailers.” “Yeah, it’s 16 years old and still in pretty good shape. It’s been my home for over two and a half years.”

“Wow, good for you!” She tells me her name is Liz, and we talk a little bit more. I tell her about my blog and that I’m heading for Yellowstone to work for the summer. “Sounds like a fun life!” We part ways and I read inside Cas while the sun sets over Walmart.

I sleep well.

Wednesday, May 6

I wake up to a gray but dry morning, and pick up bread and milk inside Walmart as quick as I can, it would be nice to get out of Fargo before the rain starts.

No such luck, as I turn out of the parking lot, it starts to drizzle.

Luckily, it’s a light rain that drains off of the road quickly and doesn’t slow travel. The temperature struggles to get into the 50’s, I doubt it’s going to get up to 70 as the forecast predicted.

This is my first time in North Dakota with Cas, the last time I came through here I was 1 4 and it was at the end of a long road trip, I hardly remember it. The land is flat and the grass is golden, trees are infrequent, but green.

I94 here looks good, no potholes or tar, but it doesn’t feel good.

Much if it is what I think are concrete slabs. In a passenger vehicle, it probably feels fine at high speed, but having that extra axle behind me me, when Cas’ wheels hit those cracks between slabs, it causes the trailer to shift a little, and that jars Bertha as the truck crosses the next crack. It’s a hard phenomenon to explain if you’ve never towed on a road like this before. It’s not wear and tear on the road, it’s just the way it was made. Sometimes when I’m on a road like this I can speed up or slow down a little and hitting the cracks at a different speed doesn’t cause as much jarring, but not this time. When stopping for lunch nothing inside Cas looks amiss, the bumps are not that great.

Brunswick comes and goes, that was going to be my stop for tonight but again though the rain is persistent, it’s not heavy.

I stop for gas in the afternoon during a brief lull in the rain, and find that this particular gas station has air, and they don’t charge for it, yay! Cas’s rear mounted spare tire is low on air, and I’ve been looking since I hit the road yesterday for a place to fill it up. I fill for a count of 4-5 seconds, then stick my tire gauge on to see what the new psi reading is, until it’s full. While I’m at it, I put a little air into the rest of Cas’s tires too, although they’re holding air well.

After Yellowstone is done, I’m going to have to get all the trailer tires replaced. The two currently on the trailer are high quality light truck tires meant for commercial use, but they’re seven years old now. Having those wheel covers on between trips to keep the sun off has prolonged their life I’m positive, but I’m finally starting to see small cracks in the sidewalls – nothing lasts forever.

Toward the western end of the state, the land changes. Hills become more common, and some of those hills are eroded, badlands! Before long I see signs for Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I contemplate stopping, but the rain is coming down too hard to get good pictures even if I did, and the wind has switched directions and is now coming from the NW, bringing colder air with it. I do what I can to get pictures and video from the road.

Park from the road, not much to see with the fog and rain

Park from the road, not much to see with the fog and rain

road-to-yellowstone5

Driving conditions are getting worse. The wind is now blowing against me and the rain is coming in sheets, I94 is less well kept and I don’t always see the patches and bumps before I hit them. I won’t go too much farther tonight.

I spend the night at Bad Route Rest Area, just across the border in Montana. The low is 40, but with bundled up with enough blankets it’s still just fine for sleeping. Semis come and go in the night, but they don’t wake me.

Bad Route rest area, wasn't all that bad!

Bad Route rest area, wasn’t all that bad!

Thursday, May 7

Montana, how exciting! The rain has given up, and the high clouds that remain do nothing except shield the sun.

Montana badlands

Montana badlands

I was expecting a lot of trees, and so far it’s been grasslands, not much different than North Dakota, except hillier. Not far into the state, the road crosses a broad river, decorated with more pretty badlands features, the Yellowstone River! The interstate continues following the course of the river, into and out of the valley it’s carved. Badlands features along the valley walls give way to harder stone as the miles roll by. When I stop for gas in Forsythe a bluff with sparse pine trees makes a nice backdrop.

road-to-yellowstone8

As Billings looms closer and closer on the GPS, the pine trees become more numerous along the bluffs. I could go farther today, but I’m getting close relatively speaking to my goal. I can’t arrive before the 9th, so I make the decision to stop at a truck stop/McDonalds on the edge of town to work on this blog post and waste some time. I’ll stay somewhere in the Billings area tonight, and go a bit farther tomorrow. Not too much longer now!

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

37 Comments

  1. Steve w. (sdw) on May 12, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Hey Becky
    just wanted to tell you that when you do get the tires, make sure the tire store guy checks the manufacture’s date that the tire was made. Some tires sit in a warehouse for years. Make sure they were made this year.

    pride of you
    Steve



    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      Yep I know Steve, that’s how I knew it was time to change them. Thanks!



  2. Monica on May 9, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Love your blog Becky. I recently came across your blog from a forum entry listed with Good Sam. I am retiring this May after 30 years in the education system. I can’t believe I have spent all those years locked in a classroom . You have been an inspiration to me. To get out and enjoy life. My fifth wheel has been sitting in storage for the past four years. Someday I hopefully we will cross paths. Safe travels…..



    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Welcome to IO Monica and I’m glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂

      Congrats on your impending retirement! The good news is, even if you spent all those years in a classroom, you’re about to be free, haha. Get out there and enjoy it! Safe travels and happy trails, and you know where I’ll be this summer if you happen to swing through Yellowstone. 😉



  3. Tim on May 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Just curious where you will be going in Yellowstone. I’m currently here working at the Old Faithful Inn for the summer.



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Working for the Yellowstone Association at the shop inside the Visitor Center at Old Faithful Tim, we’ll be neighbors!



      • Tim on May 27, 2015 at 6:13 pm

        Cool! I’ll have to come by the visitor center and say hello!



        • Becky on May 27, 2015 at 7:17 pm

          I’m off the next two days (Thurs and Fri), but I’ll be there Saturday through Monday in the afternoons. I had chicken wings at the Bear Paw on Monday night, the Inn is really cool looking! I need to go back in the daytime to get photos and take that tour, maybe I’ll see you there. 🙂



  4. Ed @ Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets. on May 8, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Here’s a link to Tire Rack for trailer specific tires. I took a guess at your size. I could be wrong. $114 per tire plus shipping to Yellowstone. I’ve dealt with Tire Rack extensively. They have good prices/good tires.

    http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires.jsp?tireMake=Kumho&tireModel=Radial+857&sidewall=Blackwall&partnum=8R4857&tab=Sizes

    Just remember Becky, that is your HOME. You don’t need a blow out.



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks for the link Ed, yes I need to special order the ones I want, then take the tires + trailer to someplace that’ll put them on for me if I can’t find help in the campground, it’s not something I feel comfortable doing myself.



  5. Yvonne on May 8, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Sounds like your drive is just “cruising” along. I will never forget my first trip to Yellowstone pulling my TrailManor. We entered through the West side … lots and lots of hills that way 🙂 You are going to have a wonderful time there … stay safe ~ Y



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      I’ll have quite a lot of mountains tomorrow it’s looking like, parked at the edge of the range tonight. I was expecting to have more mountain driving before this but eastern Montanan isn’t like that at all. Thanks and I will!



  6. Jodee Gravel on May 8, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Don’t you just love the flexibility of adjusting your schedule based on the weather and your own stamina? Being ahead of your planned arrival is especially sweet in that beautiful area. Glad you’re making good time safely 🙂
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..One Month Til Launch – OMG!My Profile



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:07 pm

      Yes Jodee, and thanks! I twiddled my thumbs a good deal of today since I spent last night in Billings and only had maybe two hours of driving today, if that. The view from tonight’s stop is pretty amazing: snow-capped mountains!



  7. Jim at Growing Faith on May 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

    It is nice living vicariously through you. Have you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? This blog post reminds me of that book. If you haven’t read it, it is one of my favorites, and coincidentally the road trip in the book takes him to Montana.

    I’m glad your travels have been safe! 🙂
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted..God WillingMy Profile



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Nope I haven’t heard of that book before Jim, I’ll look into it. 🙂 Glad you’ve enjoyed this post, only 110 more miles to go!



  8. Roger on May 8, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Hi Becky,

    One of the things I find fun, especially already missing being on the road is opening up Google maps and following you on the route as you describe where you are and what cities/towns you stop in.

    Stay safe as your almost there, I hope to be working in Haslet at peak.

    Roger



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      Yes, Google Maps is really good for that Roger.

      If you make it to Haslet, I’ll see you there!



  9. Art Soderholm on May 8, 2015 at 8:26 am

    I love your blog Becky. You have been an inspiration to me. I am currently on the road now for my first long distance trip heading to the western slopes of Colorado to camp host in a couple of state parks for the summer. I am taking my time and enjoying some of the secondary roads along the way. I left New Jersey on the 29th of April stopping for a few days at my son’s home just outside of Indianapolis. I’m now spending a few days at Glen Elder State Park in Kansas, looking for Dorothy and Toto. Again, thank you and safe travels.
    Art



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Art, thanks for reading!

      That sounds like a really fun trip, taking things slow when you have the time and money is great, you get to see so much more than those of us who rush to our destinations. 😉

      Safe travels and happy trails to you as well.



  10. Dwayne on May 8, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Back in 2000 I did a bicycle ride across the US, with 100 lb. in the tires. Think you had a problem with those cracks! Oh, was my rear end sore. There was about a 40 mile section of road just like that.



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      Yikes Dwayne, sounds uncomfortable!



  11. Tom Reed on May 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

    As for your tires, PLEASE address that problem soon(safety). And you should really have trailer tires and not truck tires under “Cas”. I for one would like to follow your blog for a long time, So please be SAFE……



    • Reine in Plano on May 8, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Enjoyed the post but I agree with Tom that the tires are WAY overdue for replacement. There are lots of discussions on the Casita Forum about tires and lots of us don’t use “trailer tires”. However pretty much the consensus is that the tires on our Casitas need to be replaced every three years or so. That’s what Paul and I do because the cost of the tires is way less than the hassle of a flat although our Casita handled quite well the two times we had a blowout before we started the 3 year replacement plan. Planned maintenance is almost always more convenient and less costly than emergency maintenance.



      • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 7:01 pm

        Tom – I don’t know about other RV trailers, but many Casita owners swear up an down that light truck tires hold out better than trailer tires do – I think the fact that it’s a single vs. double axle makes a difference.

        Reine – Larry at Little House Customs looked them over last year and said they were a top-end brand and weren’t in dire need of replacement, but I understand your concerns.

        Please don’t worry over much. I have every intention of getting them replaced when Yellowstone is over before I do another long drive on them. I was planning to do it before this drive, but I want the same kind of tire that I have on now (they have held up amazingly well!) and realized too late I’d have to special order them in which takes time.



  12. Janett on May 8, 2015 at 6:56 am

    Seeing your pictures made me curious about the Badlands so I Googled it! How places get their names has always intrigued me like your “Bad Route Rest Area” that wasn’t so bad and after viewing the Badlands pictures it’s name is well deserved. There’s some ruff terrain and a lot of history in them hills!

    I’m sure you’re anxious to get the road behind you so glad you’re ahead of schedule. Stay safe 🙂



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      I worked at Badlands National Park in South Dakota my first summer as a full-timer Janett, you should Google pictures of that and visit sometime. A really neat place!

      Thanks, the drive is going well so far!



  13. Matt on May 8, 2015 at 6:45 am

    The concrete freeway slabs do reek havoc on a single axle trailer. I Had the same problem on 39 (I believe) near Chicago. After a while you do sart to worry something may come loose.



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Luckily I fixed the hinges on those doors and my closet shelf before this, or it could have been a lot worse! Oh, and packing everything in the fridge in tight so it doesn’t come open or break…



  14. John L. on May 7, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Yeah, those little joints (cracks) in the pavement can be a little jarring and unnerving at first, but before long become nearly unnoticeable. Sounds like you are making good time! Just be safe!



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      These ones were really noticeable, some are worse than others, this might be the worst I’ve experienced so far.

      Thanks John, the drive has gone really well so far, 110 more miles tomorrow and I’m there. 🙂



  15. Mike Kuper on May 7, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Great post. I’ve done that route before. Good decision to forsake the east entrance to Yellowstone at this time – actually anytime in an RV, I assume you’re coming in through Gardiner.



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Yes I am Mike, the western and southern routes are also open for the season but coming from Wisconsin this way was the quickest. Glad you enjoyed this!



  16. Terry Esslinger on May 7, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Where are you going to be working in Yellowstone? We are working for Yellowstone Association at Old Faithful and arrived today (7th) we stayed two nights at Grizzly in West Yellowstone as we were not supposed to be here until the 7th. Snowed on us last night and on our way in this morning. Currently raining lightly but supposed to snow again tonight. We came in from the west, how are you planning to enter? Drive carefully. Btw nice rig!



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Heya Terry! I recognize your name from Bill’s e-mails, I’m going to be at Old Faithful with YA as well, we’re going to be co-workers. 🙂

      I’m coming in tomorrow (the 9th) early afternoon if all goes well. I’m staying in Livingston, MT tonight and approaching from the north. Been on and off rain during the drive today and it’s still cloudy right now, but at this elevation the temperature isn’t suppose to dip below freezing tonight. Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you two soon!



  17. Snayte on May 7, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I think the jarring you are talking about is referred to as porpoising. The eastbound stretch of 94 between Millston and Warrens is terrible when towing my trailer. It is like you are riding a horse. I was hopeful when i saw that they were going to be doing construction in that area but alas, they are stopping right before the bad section. Oh well a couple more years I guess.



    • Becky on May 8, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks for putting a name to it Snayte. Yes, there was some construction going on in that area, but none in that stretch. I hope enough people complain that eventually it gets changed.



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